hree years ago, the Colorado-based rock band VERMILLION ROAD released their debut album PALACES - a collection of songs that boasted the time-honored 'post-grunge' aesthetic that has been a the norm since the "alternative" label became a thing. We admired the DIY approach of the band and their willingness to take their humble sound beyond the boundaries of the Centennial State and the Greater Southwest region of the country. It is now three years later and VERMILLION ROAD have eschewed their traditional rock band approach in favor for the punchy electronic stylings of indie pop artists such as WALK THE MOON and IMAGINE DRAGONS. Their new EP ESCAPE is a step in the right direction if the band wants to make a dent in any substantial airplay, and the singles ONLY ONE and GASOLINE are confident stompers that will leave a melody in one's head and a hankering for more. ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with WILL ROBISON of VERMILLION ROAD. Here is how the interview went.
So much has changed since the release of the album PALACES a couple of years back. You guys have a whole new sound now with the EP ESCAPE, and now that it's out there for people ot hear, how do you feel about the finished work?
It's so rewarding man! This EP is a little bit of a departure for us as you can probably tell. It's gotten some traction on the streaming services and that is all we can ask for. On SPOTIFY, the lead single ONLY ONE has done particularly well. It was quite a departure for us to go in this direction. You were one of the first publications to interview us for the last album PALACES and ESCAPE has more of an alternative pop album with a lot of electronic influences. For us to go in this direction and have the reception be as warm as it has, has been really amazing. It's quite gratifying.
And I really like the artwork and the packaging for the album. It reminds of the photos that were taken of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND and NICO for the album with the banana on it.
Oh cool! We were heavily influenced by IMAGINE DRAGONS and WALK THE MOON and the aesthetic of those bands this time around. Thank you for that VELVET UNDERGROUND comparison, that's really cool! I'm really happy with the way the EP artwork turned out. It feels very authentic while at the same time conveying that this is the next chapter for VERMILLION ROAD.
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Who all did you guys work with in terms of production for this album?
It was actually similar to the last record. We did a lot of it in the same way that we did our previous record in our home studio in Colorado. We had a producer out in LA do a lot of the pre-production. A lot of the album was done here in Colorado but a lot of it was done remotely. It was largely this producer - who I know doesn't want to be named - and the band working together. HUNTER's brother KELLER helped us behind the console here in Colorado done and then he would do all of the stuff out in LA and then the whole thing would just come together.
Given the new sound, I can imagine that the songwriting process was different this time around.
We turned a lot to what was really big on the radio at the time as well as now. A lot of the credit for the songwriting has to go to HUNTER. That guy just has a wicked ear for melody and production and song structure and how to communicate what you're trying to say. HUNTER is just really good at that kind of stuff. We wanted to turn to a lot of bands that are doing new and innovative stuff within the alternative world. I've mentioned IMAGINE DRAGONS, WALK THE MOON and X AMBASSADORS. I think 21 PILOTS might be a little bit of an influence for us. Artists like that were inspiring for us. There was also a lot of pop influences in there for us. I think from a production standpoint, you hear a little POST MALONE in there, which I think is interesting because that totally lends itself tot he rock stuff. Not that I would classify POST MALONE as a rock guy first and foremost.
So far, have there been any reactions to the EP that hav surprised you?
We went into making this record knowing that some people were going to be like "Oh! this is a pop record!" When you come from a hard rock background, there are always some people who are going to be like "Oh no! They went pop!" I was afraid that all of our fans were going to be that way, but in the end, I could count on one hand the number of people who were disappointed by the change in direction. People have listened to the album and have been completely surprised and in turn, I was completely surprised by how warm people were to the music. GASOLINE has been a fan fovorite live and so is the track EYE ON YOU. People have been really receptive to the song FAKE LOVE as well. The reception that all of those songs have been getting has been really surprising.
How far have you been able to take this music outside of Colorado? Is there any touring going on at the moment?
We've been playing these songs for a while now, but since the EP has come out, we haven't done a whole ton of touring. We've pretty much stayed within the Southwest region of the US in Colorado and New Mexico and Arizona and Utah. People in those areas have been really receptive. One of the things that we hear quite a bit is the people feel that the music has a lot of energy and a lot of heart. To hear that from people is very rewarding and gratifying.
And how has the line up handled these musical changes?
There have been a couple of changes. Our former drummer CHAD is no longer with the band. He started his own project called EVER IGNITE. They are just getting started in Denver. They've been putting together a record and getting their line up together so I'm really excited to see what CHAD is going to be doing with that. As far as us, we've been through a few line up changes. Our new drummer is a guy named LOGAN HILEMAN. He's been with us for a year and a half now and he fits like a glove. We went through a couple of bas players as well. Our original bassist MARK departed the band a while ago. We had a guy named KYLE and we also found a guy named GILL. Both of these guys played bass in the band. That is where we're at. In experimenting with this new genre, it actaully feels like a whole new band.
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And how is the songwriting different with these kind of line up changes?
We're paying a lot more attention to the general principles of stuff. We're paying close attention to what other artists on the radio and on YOUTUBE are doing. It's one thing when you have guys from a more rock-centered background as opposed to musicians with a wider muscal range. That is what we have in GILL. There is certainly a lot more to draw on in terms of our influences. At the end of the day, the one thing that has remained consistent about our songwriting is the fact that we want to communicate effectively and we want to be authentic and talk about experiences that resonate truly for all of us. I think that is what every songwriter strives to do.
With the release of this album behind you, what is next for you guys musically?
In the immediate future we're going ot keep touring. Earlier I mentioned touring throughout the Southwest. We woudl really like to hit the rest of the country pretty hard and really lock it down. We want to wear on our sleeves the fact that we are heading in this new musical direction and that we hope that you can come along with us. Musically, we're probably going to keep writing pretty hard. One of the things that I owuld like ofr people ot take form this record is that we're not afraid to experiment with new stuff. The more we can pushourselves with new music, the more satisfied I think we will be. We're probably going to be wriitng pretty hard. Nothing is set in stone yet but I would say expect a couple of new singles probably before the end of 2019.
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